Marissa Lorusso

San Francisco-based Pllush makes hazy dream-pop that pairs emotionally wrought lyrics with maxed-out shoegaze guitars. The band has developed a dense, harmony-rich sound over the course of several releases — all, up until now, under the name Plush. For the release of Stranger to the Pain, its forthcoming album, the band has added the second l to its name, honed its pop melodies and sharpened its guitar-heavy sound.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

The 2018 Tiny Desk Contest is now open! You can now submit your video via the entry form on our website. We'll be accepting entries through March 25 at 11:59pm EST.

When you're ready to enter, you'll need to:

  • Film a video of you (or your band) performing an original song in front of a desk (any desk).
  • Upload that video to YouTube.
  • Submit that YouTube video via our entry form.

"Must Be Nice," the first single from Chicago band Varsity's forthcoming album Parallel Person, has a title that comprises a double meaning. The title phrase is habitually "bandied around sarcastically," says singer and keyboardist Stephanie Smith. But she says it can also be an ultimatum, as in: "I must be nice in order to be liked/noticed/not be considered a b****."

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


Philly art-rock group Palm might look like a normal band: two guitars, a bass, drums, a couple singers. But if you listen to Rock Island (or really anything else the group has released), it becomes clear that any passing resemblance to normality is purely accidental.

The Philly art-rock band Palm seems to delight in being collaboratively weird. Bandmates Kasra Kurt and Eve Alpert bury their lyrics in singsong melodies and fractured, jittery guitar parts — both of which appear in constant, if antagonistic, communication with each other. The frenetic songs are made slightly more surefooted by bassist Gerasimos Livitanos and drummer Hugo Stanley, but the rhythm section's confrontational energy often undermines its own attempts at stability.

"The value of Death," wrote songwriter Sean Bean, of Boston's Bad History Month, in a dense, intimate introduction to new album Dead and Loving It, "is that it's an infallibly reliable fixed point on the horizon to navigate by when I'm lost at sea."

Some of us are verbal processors, who feel like certain vexing issues just can't be solved until we've exhaustively enunciated every angle. The hope is that the act of explaining a problem aloud will draw out a perspective previously unseen; sometimes you just have to start a sentence to see where it will lead. On "Let Down," from the four-member Gingerlys, Jackie Mendoza and Colin O'Neill's call-and-response vocals feel like two sides of a conversation with the self, an attempt to sketch the contours of tangled relationship in search of a way out.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

As Japanese Breakfast, Michelle Zauner writes sparkling, opulent dream pop about grief and love (and, occasionally, robots). After releasing its debut album, Psychopomp last year, the band returned with this year's stunning Soft Sounds From Another Planet. Where Psychopomp, written in the immediate aftermath of the death of Zauner's mother, zeroed in on the experience of Zauner's grief, Soft Sounds widens her aperture, featuring paeans to her coping mechanisms, ruminations on crooked relationship dynamics and said sci-fi robot fantasy.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Updated at 9:40 p.m. ET

Like U2, Ed Sheeran has also canceled his concert in St. Louis because of safety concerns.

The cancellations follow protests in the city prompted by the acquittal of a former police officer, who had been charged with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of a black man.

Those of us who fell in love with her debut album, Sprained Ankle, have been hungering for more of Julien Baker's sparse, confessional songs — brutally honest and cripplingly insecure, self-deprecating but laced with just enough hope to keep you hanging on — since the album's 2015 release (only briefly sated by the release of "Funeral Pyre," a one-off single, in January).

In talking about her new album, Rainbow, Kesha describes making the impossible possible with boundless optimism — like ending up with collaborators from her "wildest of dreams," from the kinds of secret aspirations you're too scared to say aloud. (This includes a duet with Dolly Parton, guitar solos from Eagles Of Death Metal and a horn section courtesy of the Dap-Kings).

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